For several months—possibly almost a year at this point—I’ve been working my way through Empire magazine’s list of the 500 greatest movies of all time. I’ve seen 203 so far, including those that I’d already seen before the list was published.
You won’t be surprised to learn that my tracking of this project involves a spreadsheet full of colours and formulae. There’s even a pie chart depicting the fractions of movies seen by me, Eileen, both of us, or neither of us.
Yes, I have managed to find a girlfriend who’s willing to collaboratively update a spreadsheet of movie-watching history with me. That feeling you’re experiencing is either intense jealousy, or intense pity.
Since I already have a digital copy of the movie list in a form amenable to machine-reading, I thought I’d grab some stats from the list.
There are 294 directors in the list, if you count directing teams, like Joel and Ethan Coen, as single directors. The majority of these directors, 194 of them, have only a single movie on the list. The other 100 directors account for the remaining 306 movies between them, with 27 directors having at least four movies on the list. Here are those 27, in order from most to least:
|5||Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger|
|5||Joel & Ethan Coen|
|5||Francis Ford Coppola|
|5||Brian De Palma|
I’m as big a fan of Steven Spielberg as anyone, and surely no-one would deny that Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Schindler’s List are deserving of their places on this list, but even I wouldn’t claim that a full eleven of Spielberg’s movies should be there. AI: Artificial Intelligence and the fourth Indiana Jones film are conspicuously out of place in that crowd.
The modern bias in the selection of these movies is very obvious when you look at their distribution over time.
There are representatives of every decade of film since the 1920s, yet more than a fifth of the movies in the list are from this decade, before it’s even over. No recognition is given to the well established fact that Hollywood reached its peak in the mid-1980s.
However wrong I might think this list is—and I find it hard to imagine anyone ever getting it “right”—I’ve definitely found some real gems while watching the highest-rated movies. Most of the best one’s I’ve discovered, though, were not made in the 00s by Steven Spielberg.